Injury Bug: The Villain of the 2015 NBA Playoffs
Basketball is a world of paradoxes. For every hero, there is a villain.
Injuries commonly happen to athletes, particularly to those who are in active sports. Given the nature of grit and grind basketball, no one is 100% injury-proof on the hardwood.
In the 2015 NBA Playoffs alone, numerous key and role players saw their title hopes dashed due to different types of injuries. The case, however, is not about how many ballers were hurt, but how this factor can affect a game, the whole series, or the entire championship run.
One thing is for sure: a villain can be anything. It doesn't necessarily have to be a person. As of the 2015 NBA Finals, one particular antihero stood out - the injury bug.
Current Injury Reports
While Golden State Warriors' Marreese Speights already saw action in the Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao won't be suiting up until next season.
Add to the list of injured players is Cavs star guard Kyrie Irving, who is ruled out of the title series due to a broken left kneecap. Irving already missed a few games prior to the Finals, opting to rest the same knee. But after playing all-out in Game 1, he re-injured himself and now requires surgery.
No one can really determine which player or team has been affected most by the injury bug. Of course, those who are suffering from the pain and missing some important playoff games are the ones carrying a heavy burden. But their absence similarly puts a hefty weight on the shoulders of their teammates.
With the unexpected turn of events, LeBron James has to carry the load for his team. As of press time, the series is at 3-2, Warriors lead. In spite of playing with a complete line-up, though, the Warriors are struggling to play competently, still leaving the window open for the LeBron James and "some" Cavaliers.
Brief History of Playoff Injuries
Even during the NBA's old days, injuries have caught up with a lot of stars - players whom the team can depend on either offensively or defensively.
In 2004, the L.A. Lakers were touted as the favorites to win the trophy after signing Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to a roster that already included superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. The team had its struggles in the regular season, but eventually reached the Finals against the Detroit Pistons.
Malone played great as a Laker, but his nagging knee injury was a factor to their loss. With the team down 1-3 in the series, he sat out the decisive Game 5 because he was too hurt to play competitively.
That ill-fated event was not the first for the Lakers, though. A few years earlier, the same franchise was having one of the best playoff runs in history, until the injury bug caught up with them. In 1989, Magic Johnson led the Lakers to an 11-0 start of the postseason despite a subpar regular season performance. But before Game 1 of the Finals against the Pistons (again), Byron Scott pulled a hamstring in practice and was ruled out of the series.
In Game 2, Johnson also had the same injury. Just like that, the best Lakers backcourt duo watched as the trio of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Vinnie Johnson torched second- or third-stringers Tony Campbell and David Rivers as well as their championship hopes.
Another team poised for a title run was the 2003 Dallas Mavericks. The team was good enough to gain contention for the trophy, leaning on its franchise player Dirk Nowitzki. He led the team in points, even scoring 46 points in their first playoff game.
The Mavs eventually reached the Western Conference Finals and faced the San Antonio Spurs. Nowitzki was unstoppable on the offensive end; however, the injury bug put a halt to his scoring rampage. He sprained his ankle in Game 3 and sat out the rest of the series, making the win easier for the Spurs.
How Injuries Affect the Game
Basketball today goes beyond the stats of players or the tactics of the coaching staff. It's more about which team is healthier enough to fully utilize its players and get the most out of their collective potential.
The impact of injuries, however, weighs heavier in the playoffs. It impedes the possibility of players to perform competitively and win it all. For the fans, it's similarly painful to see your favorite players limping down the court and your championship hopes flying out the window.
Significance to the League
With players sitting out postseason games, has the entertainment value of the NBA Playoffs decreased? Have injuries affected the expected outcome of every series? Or the entire playoffs, for that matter? Will this affect the NBA's fan base? There are a lot of questions hounding the postseason.
So far, the two remaining teams in the 2015 Finals show the brand of playoff basketball. Unlike in the earlier rounds, no team is on the verge of getting swept or looks undeniably dominant in every aspect.
As the intensity of the game increases, many players suffer from premature wear and tear. This may be a callout to the shortening of the regular season from 82 games.
After all, the injury bug is the biggest, meanest and probably the worst villain of the entire NBA.